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Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions took place in (a) 2000 and (b) 2001 between the British and Iraqi Governments on (i) the return of weapons inspectors and (ii) the lifting of sanctions; what governments and persons were used as intermediaries in this process; what discussions the British Government had with the governments of (A) France, (B) Russia and (C) the United States on this matter prior to the discussions in 2000 and 2001; and if he will make a statement. [112713]

As part of our extensive efforts to resolve the Iraqi disarmament issue following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1284, the Government held discussions with a number of other Governments. Our overall objective was to ensure the return of UN weapons inspectors to verify Iraq's disarmament as required under that resolution and, ultimately, the lifting of sanctions.These discussions took the form of both direct bilateral exchanges and discussions in multilateral fora. On a number of occasions the Government also encouraged other Governments, both in the region and elsewhere, which enjoyed closer relations with the Iraqi regime to persuade them to co-operate with the United Nations.